Let me first begin by apologising for such an awful jazz pun. This blog has lain dormant for at least six months now for two reasons. The first was the shame of coming up with and choosing to use such a pun but now I’m fond of it and it has stuck so we’ll all just have to deal with it. The second reason is this blog’s uncertain purpose, which is going to take a little bit of navel-gazing to explain. For that I give you my second apology.
This time last year I was likely to tar myself with that proverbial brush of creative duality: I am an artist and a writer, because I like writing and I’m trying to be an “artist” — currently for economical reasons because I never before realised the burden of occupational nomenclature on things like car insurance which, I have been told, is cheaper for artists than, say, photographers…
But also the words taste strange in my mouth — artist and writer. I am not comfortable with even the most basic acts of self-profession. People say I am reserved or shy or quiet but, like many, I am simply under the constant shadow of my own scrutiny.
When it comes to my written output the scrutiny is so severe that, whilst I might like to think of myself as a writer, the only examples of my writing that exist in the world are the ones I have submitted for marking throughout my education. I say “exist” but I have no way of proving that they continue to exist. For all I know they have been shredded into oblivion because of their blatant obsolescence to a recent graduate and his former tutors.
My problem is that I consistently fail to stand by anything that I write for an extended period of time. More often than not I write to see what I think. Then I go away, think some more, read what I’ve written and decide that is not what I think any longer. I think; I write; I post; I read; I delete. It’s cowardly, really. How can I allow something to stay published when, six months down the line, I may no longer agree with myself or choose to articulate myself in the same way?
The only evidence of my writing that exists for certain (because there are at least four copies of it here in my house) is my 10,000-word dissertation on anxiety in photography and/or the anxiety of photography. I remember regretting at least a third of it as soon as it came through the post in its final, pseudo-book form and I read through my efforts one last time with the knowledge that there was no turning back and this was what I had to submit.
Titled How I Learnt To Stop Worrying and Look at Photography, I realised almost immediately after reading it that photography was not something I had ever been anxious about. Photography is the one creative act that I do almost daily that is free of over-thought. It is my one and only creative respite. This was the case when I first picked up a camera and I worked very hard to relearn that approach after education almost forced it out of me.
This is a common affliction no doubt: to be a navel-gazing, self-criticising, confidence-lacking neurotic non-writer. Evidently I need a therapeutic outlet and Art Flakey is it, for better or for worse. It is no different to anything I have done before. I will post what I usually write and then delete but under one condition: I won’t delete it. I have realised that my neuroticism is a learned behaviour and the fear of contradicting myself comes from witnessing those who criticise those who have public changes of heart, particularly those who experiment in other parts of their lives and creative practices. I need to discover a way of writing that I am comfortable with which complements my practice and the way that I think.
Why is it so often a surprise that visual experimentation is often coupled with verbal or written experimentation? Public records of ideas, concepts and opinions may as well be carved in stone, but surely we are all aware that that is no reflection on ourselves as creative human beings? For photographers, we allow our photographs to be relatively truthful records of ourselves and our experiences at any given moment. We also accept that since those photographs were taken we have continued to grow, change and have new experiences. We accept that they were true when we took them but that they may not be true any longer. Why is the same leniency not given to writing? There are countless works of art that are not defined by a single object or result but by a changing and inconsistent process. Can a blog of inconsistent and potentially contradictory articles fall into the same category of process as art?
Maybe it can. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m just lying to myself and none of this is an issue for anyone else. We’ll see.
Not all of the articles on his blog will be navel-gazing. There will be opinion pieces, reviews, reports, anecdotes, theories, drafts and final texts for direct and indirect use in my photographic work. I reserve the right to stand by them until I die and I reserve the right to disregard them the next day, all without the over-bearing temptation to censor myself.
I reserve the right to be flakey.